2011 Finalist: Participatory Mapping
“I strongly believe that the world wide 'citizen science" and "people's science" movements are transformative in the coming decades and will change the way we deal with many planetary issues from local perspectives. Participatory Mapping is an exceptional example of this emerging movement.”
– Roger Malina, 2011 Challenge Juror
This project empowers local forest communities to use cutting edge technologies to map their lands and resources and use this evidence as advocacy and negotiation tools for more secure land tenure. Through this, it also serves as an effective tool to contribute to environmental protection and poverty reduction efforts.
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Critical Need Being Addressed
Forest communities are often wrongly identified as main drivers of deforestation. On the contrary, it can be clearly demonstrated that their traditional resource management practices can effectively contribute to forest protection. This participatory mapping project addresses fundamental insecurity of land tenure that leaves forest communities vulnerable to exploitation.
Description of Initiative
In the Congo basin, the argument that forest communities’ practices are destructive of the environment is used as a political strategy to pave the way for the use of their lands for large scale industrial logging, mining and other economic initiatives. In the national legislation of Congo basin countries, the State effectively owns all forest land. Local communities, despite the important role the have played for centuries in forest conservation, have little more than user rights to their land and resources. Mapping of lands by States takes place on a macro level, often ignoring the customary use and needs of forest communities at the expense of large economic interests.
Participatory mapping is not new. Over the past three decades these practices have emerged as an alternative to empower marginalised groups and those traditionally excluded from decision-making processes. Since 2000, the Rainforest Foundation UK and its local partners have been supporting forest-dependent communities in the Congo Basin region to produce accurate, geo-referenced community maps of their territories and to use these maps to advocate for the recognition of their rights to manage and protect forest lands. RFUK has produced over 100 maps, trained over 500 people (GIS technicians and mappers from NGOs, government and forest communities) in 5 countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo) and has directly benefited more than 18,000 people in forest areas. The work of exchange and dialogue supported by participatory maps is mobilizing the interest of a broad range of partners (communities, NGOs, policy makers and international partners), and promoting legal and policy changes for the benefit of forest communities at various levels. At this stage, it is essential that this work is able to continue in order to ensure that the changes that are on the horizon actually begin to bear fruit.
Resources + Updates Since Entering The Challenge in October 2010
-PROJECT PRESS RELEASE: PDF
-BFI ASSESSMENT SUMMARY
-Rain Forest Foundation UK: WebsiteBLOG
-Project Developments: PDF
-Document addressing empowerment of women in the mapping process: PDF
-This booklet is a brief methodology guide, explaining how the Rainforest Foundation UK and its partners work with communities in the Congo Basin to help indigenous communities produce accurate, geo-referenced community maps as a tool for negotiation to ensure community participation is at the centre of decision-making processes affecting their lands and rights.Rainforest Foundation UK, Participatory Mapping: A guide to the production of maps with forest communities in the Congo Basin(French only)
PEOPLE: Georges Thierry Handja, Participatory Mapping Coordinator
At the CED, GT trained as a GIS technician, living and working with indigenous peoples without secure access to traditional lands and resources. By combining traditional knowledge with sophisticated GIS technologies, GT pioneered participatory mapping to support communities in and around the Campo-Ma’an National Park to document their land and resource use, and halt negative impacts of the destructive Chad-Cameroon petrol pipeline project. In respect for the work GT has dedicated his life to, a Baka “Pygmy” community in the Dja reserve in Cameroon gave him the privilege of naming their new village after him.
Since then, he has helped to extend participatory mapping to forest communities all over the Congo Basin and expand RFUK’s regional programme which will allow governments and decision makers to make more informed decisions concerning forests and forest communities.
The mission of the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) is to support indigenous peoples and traditional populations of the world's rainforest to:
• Secure and control the natural resources necessary for their long-term wellbeing and managing these resources in ways which do not harm their environment, violate their culture or compromise their future.
• Develop means to protect their individual and collective rights and to obtain, shape and control basic services from the state.
RFUK considers that an essential first step to protect and manage the tropical forests and to reduce poverty in tropical forest countries is to realise the rights of the traditional and indigenous communities who live in those forests. With secure rights to land and livelihoods, forest peoples can effectively manage forest resources and direct and manage their own development.
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